Crossing into Peru was easier than I expected. I had read reports of immigration officials searching your bags and stealing stuff or planting drugs. But I breezed through without a hitch. I read about islands on Lake Titcaca that were made of reeds and hundreds of people, the Uru, lived on them. It sounded fascinating, so when I got to the town of Puno I booked a boat and visited.
The islands go back centuries. The Uru people built them to escape from the Incas. They are made from soil and reeds which grow in the lake. Nowadays of course they don´t have to escape from the Incas but hundreds of people still live on the islands. They are anchored down to keep them from drifting.
They are made by tying blocks of soil together that the reeds grow on. Then piles of reeds are stacked on top. More reeds must be added every two weeks as they rot and fall away. The islands have a spongy feeling when you walk on them. It is a wierd feeling.
Anyway, the captain of the boat, Felix, took me to his island (some islands support many families, some just one, and there are dozens of islands around the lake). Here is a pic of the place where Felix and his wife sleep. All the dwellings are made from the reeds (called tortola)
His wife and daughter and mother all paint or weave traditional scenes. They were amazing. Here is his daughter with her stuff.
And his wife.
Here are some more of the dwellings. I was entranced by their lifestyle. They raise trout and birds to eat and boil lake water to drink. They also sell their crafts to tourists.
Here is Felix and his wife showing me the depth of the water under the island.
But finally it got a bit strange for me. Felix wanted me to be his 9 year old son Daniel´s godfather, and even had me cut off a piece of his hair for me to keep. We exchanged email addresses. Then he said I could really help Daniel financially with school and clothes and such, even suggesting I could wire money via Western Union. Here is Daniel and their daughter and a shot of the family as we sped away in the boat.
I left with mixed feelings. What a life, but I hate when people are so blatant about money. I know my bike cost more than their annual income, but hey, life isn´t fair. Some people are poor. I can´t save the world. If I gave all my money away there would just be one more poor person on the earth. I can´t feel guilty about being born a white male in upper middle class America and they were born on an island of reeds. it isn´t my fault.
Any thoughts on that?